Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) isn't buying FirstEnergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's reasoning behind cracks discovered at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant last year, and is now taking his case to their higher-ups.
Rep. Kucinich announced Thursday he is demanding the inspector general of the NRC, which oversees safety at U.S. nuclear power plants, investigate the agency's handling of the reopening of Davis-Besse after workers found cracking in the shield building. Although FirstEnergy, operators of Davis-Besse, and the NRC said the cracks posed no threat to public safety last week, Kuncinich says NRC engineers told him otherwise.
"FirstEnergy has consistently misled the public about the nature and extent of problems at Davis-Besse, incurring the largest fine in NRC history as a result of its deceit in concealing the facts about the corrosion in the reactor head," he wrote in a statement. "We need a Nuclear Regulatory Commission that tells the public the truth, not one that merely repeats the soothing, but misleading, statements of the reactor's operator."
At the heart of the issue is cracking discovered in a concrete structure called the shield building. According to Rep. Kucinich's news release, the shield building protects the nuclear reactor from outsides threats while providing a last ditch containment structure in the event of disaster. Workers discovered cracking in the structure while replacing the nuclear reactor head in October of 2011. The plant was shut down while FirstEnergy studied the cracks, and the company concluded in February that the cracks were the result of the Blizzard of '78.
â??I cannot determine what caused this change in the answers of these Region III engineers, but I am concerned that it is a response to pressure from their superiors. Someone made a decision to rush Davis-Besse back into operation on December 2, 2011, which, according to NRC emails obtained through FOIA, occurred while Region III engineers were still debating the impact of the cracking," Rep. Kucinich wrote. "I am concerned that NRC officials are trying to legitimize that decision by readily accepting FirstEnergy's purported cause, and the minor remedial actions that FirstEnergy is proposing, and actively campaigning for public acceptance of them."
An NRC spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on Rep. Kucinich's request for an investigation from the inspector general, but provided the following statement:
"While we donâ??t comment on issues that might be under investigation by the IG, the NRC has had regular communication throughout the review of the shield building with the Congressman and has always worked to provide him with accurate up to date information."
A call to the NRC inspector general's office was not immediately returned.
Rep. Kucinich and anti-nuclear groups rallied before FirstEnergy and the NRC's public meeting last Thursday, promising to make the public aware of the dangers Davis-Besse poses in its current state.
â??The people of northern Ohio need to know whether or not the shield building remains strong enough to protect them from a potential catastrophe," Kucinich wrote.
Do you think FirstEnergy has done enough to maintain the safety of Davis-Besse since the crack was discovered last year? Should the plant be allowed to stay online? Weigh in below.